Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Climate Change, End of Weinergate, Limits of Medical Interventions, Lobo & Chavez, LGBT Hondurans, PC Safety

Progress report on my hit-and-run pedestrian injury: recovering slowly, a bit too slowly, but still have expectation of full recovery.

It’s disappointing that John McCain is pandering to Tea Party and arch conservatives by blaming recent Arizona fires on undocumented immigrants, when investigators believe that at least the major one was started by careless campers. I was glad that Obama and Boehner played a nice game of golf together. Let’s see if that has any impact on resolving the budget impasse.

We recently endured a terrible heat wave here in DC. My daughter in Va. Beach had a tornado sweep through her back yard, crushing a picnic table and umbrella, but fortunately missing the house. Wildfires in Arizona, droughts elsewhere, floods along the Mississippi and its tributaries, tsunami in Japan, tornados all over the place, and hurricanes yet to come. Always, these events are described as the worst in years, in decades, in a century. The havoc and destruction is costly and brings much suffering and death. No one seems to be asking the question or trying to find out, if possible, whether man-made climate change is a factor and whether such events make more urgent the switch away from fossil fuels, oil, cola, and natural gas? Republicans, such Tim Pawlenty who once supported exploration of energy alternatives, have moved away from that position, just as Mitch Romney has distanced himself from the Mass. health care law that most residents there support. It seems that politics follows fads—or creates them—fads that override facts and rational thinking.

Romney seems to be a master of lame statements feebly attempting humor that miss the mark, such as his telling unemployed people, “I’m also unemployed.” Apparently, he’s said that more than once on the campaign trail, so must consider it appropriate. Is it mocking his listeners or what? (He also seems to have a slight speech impediment.)

Glad Anthony Weiner finally accepted reality and quit Congress. His fellow Democrats must have heaved a sigh of relief and wish now that he would just disappear into the woodwork. His wife has declined to comment or appear with him in public. Someone who has shunned the spotlight, even before current events, she is apparently Muslim while he is Jewish. Their marriage ceremony last summer was reportedly conducted by Bill Clinton (is he authorized to marry people?). In rare photos she appears as a very slender young woman, attractive in an off-beat sort of way—no headscarf or Muslim garb. Weiner has no profession other than congressman, but his wife has a good job with Hillary Clinton. She may just decide to go it alone, have the baby, and try to get child support from Weiner. However, they were recently reported to be grocery shopping together, so maybe she will be forgiving.

The June 13 issue of the New Yorker contains an article (“The Aquarium”) written by a father detailing the extraordinary medical measures taken in trying to save his nine-month-old daughter from death from a rare disorder. After many procedures and interventions, all costly and painful to the baby, she died. Of course, when the patient is a child, often no expense and effort are spared, even more than with an adult, especially an elderly adult who has already lived a long life and who is likely to have multiple health problems. However, as an interpreter, I have also seen babies surviving extraordinary procedures who are, nonetheless, left with severe life-long disabilities requiring ongoing medical interventions, special education, and constant attention by parents or other caregivers.

I’m talking about children hooked up to permanent respirators, feeding tubes, and heart monitors whose caregivers cannot leave them unattended ever for more than a few minutes. Alarms will ring out during the night if one of their machines fails while the parent sleeps. I’m not saying that these children don’t deserve to live and don’t give positive feedback in terms of smiles, amazing playfulness, and progress, however slow, because often they do, but they do require a continuing burden of care and costly medical attention throughout their lives. I know what it is to lose a child and, like most parents, would have spared nothing to keep my son alive if offered that choice. But, there is no doubt that such interventions for a child with multiple problems, often congenital, are extremely costly and ongoing, and add to our burgeoning health care costs. And the more new treatments that are discovered, the more costly health care becomes, especially if these treatments help a patient, whether young or old, with multiple problems survive, requiring continuing costly long-term care. In a country like Honduras, where extraordinary measures are not available, children and adults are not subjected to them and they simply do not live so long.

The parents in the New Yorker article were asked at each juncture if they wanted life-saving efforts to continue and they said, “Yes,” until the baby’s heart had stopped for several minutes and it seemed fruitless to continue. Often, next-of-kin make these decisions for the patient, no matter what his or her age. With my own 92-year-old mother, who had numerous health conditions and a deteriorating mental capacity, the question was put to us, her children, as to whether we wanted a feeding tube inserted. We said, “No,” just give her antibiotics and pain medication, because when she was still fully cognizant, she had signed a statement saying she did not want extraordinary means and we were honoring that. On p. 262 of my Honduras book, I recount a Spanish interpretation case of a woman who had suffered a massive stroke, showing little brain activity. Her gringo husband gave a do-not-resuscitate order if her heart should stop, but her own Spanish-speaking family objected. The husband, being legally responsible, had the last word. These are sometimes difficult and contentious decisions that occur every day in hospitals all over the country, impacting on the over-all cost of medical care.

Someone not worrying about medical bills is Hugo Chavez, recuperating after surgery in Cuba, governing Venezuela from there. We shall see what effects his health problems have on his political future.

According to an article in the Spanish-language version of the June 16 Miami Herald,,

Honduran President Porfirio Lobo entered into a secret pact with Hugo Chavez on May 15, joining with other Latin American countries in the Chavez orbit promoting “Socialism for the 21st Century.” What this means and whether it was just a strategic maneuver to get Honduras readmitted to the OAS and recognized by other governments or whether it will have any practical effects on the ground in Honduras is not yet known. Obviously, despite waning popularity at home, Chavez still has influence in the hemisphere. Lobo is a member of the Nationalist Party, considered more conservative and pro-business than Manuel Zelaya’s Liberal Party, but a leopard can always change its spots, as Zelaya himself demonstrated, morphing from the traditional lackluster Honduran president into a fiery Chavez acolyte.

See following articles on LGBT people in Honduras and Peace Corps safety legislation.

Positive Results from Call to End Murders of LGBT People in Honduras

In an overwhelming show of support, over 1400 people responded to the Action Alert issued by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) and the Honduran organization Red Lesbica Catracha on January 10, 2011. The Action Alert, calling for an investigation and response to the more than 31 murders of gay and transgender people that have occurred in Honduras since the coup in June 2009, has, in the two months since its issue, seen positive results.

The Action Alert responses, together with advocacy by individuals and organizations in Honduras and other actions by the international community, contributed significantly to prompting responses from Honduran authorities, and from other countries and international institutions – including calls from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to investigate and bring to justice those responsible for these crimes and to protect LGBT persons from violence and discrimination. Honduras has publicly committed to investigate these murders and to prevent further attacks.

The Honduran Minister of Justice and Human Rights, Ana Pineda, met with members of LGBT organizations on 21 January 2011. The organizations asked the State to investigate the violent deaths of members of the LGBT community and to join the struggle against the homophobia that prevails in Honduras. Prior to this meeting, requests from these activists to obtain information on the progress of investigations from the Attorney General Luis Alberto Rubi and Human Rights Special Prosecutor, Sandra Ponce, had gone unanswered.

On February 22, 201, the Minister of Security of Honduras, Oscar Alvarez announced that he would create a special unit to investigate crimes against journalists, LGTB people and other vulnerable groups. Members of the security forces and judicial bodies will meet with the Minister of Justice and Human Rights to discuss the creation of this unit – which will be made up of approximately 150 security officers and be tasked with investigating the deaths of women, journalists, youth, gay groups, lesbians and travestis, that had previously not been investigated sufficiently.

At the March 2011 session of the UN Human Rights Council, the Council will consider the human rights review of Honduras that was conducted in November 2010 (as part of the regular country reviews by the Council) and will finalize its recommendations. IGLHRC is working to facilitate the participation of Honduran LGBT activists at the Council session to support the recommendations to Honduras that it fulfill its obligations to protect and guarantee the human rights of all people without discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.

Legislation backed to reform Peace Corps
By Lisa Rein, Washington Post, June 22, 2011 [partial article]

House and Senate lawmakers will introduce bipartisan legislation Thursday that would improve treatment and prevention training for Peace Corps volunteers who are victims of violent crime, after criticism that the agency has not done enough to help them.
The bill will be named for Kate Puzey, a young volunteer from Georgia who was killed in Benin,West Africa, in 2009. Her throat was slit on the porch of her home after the Peace Corps mishandled confidential e-mails she sent to her bosses asking them to let go a Peace Corps employee she believed was sexually assaulting young girls at the school where she was posted.


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